The 10 Best Infographics of 2018: With a Spotlight on Data-Driven Storytelling

Good data can be a powerful tool. That secret nugget of cold, hard data can be the clincher in a winning argument. But no one’s going to sort through a spreadsheet or take out their calculator while you’re trying to make your point. Data hits home when it’s easy to get.

This was probably what was on Jesuit priest and physicist Christoph Scheiner’s mind back in the 17th century when none other than Galileo Galilei picked a fight with him on the subject of sunspots. Today, his observation of sunspot patterns on the sun’s surface is widely considered to be one of the first infographics.

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Fast forward 400 years and the general design principles for infographics haven’t changed that much. It’s still a visual tool used to distill data into an easy-to-grasp image. Here are my picks for the freshest infographics of the year.

The 10 Best Infographics of 2018

1. The Evolution of Money

This simple but clever graphic illustrates the world’s largest economies by their share of global debt. With just a few colors and geometric shapes, it shows us how differently the globe might look if it’s map were organized by financial considerations rather than geography. Annotations are also effective in calling out interesting facts. For instance, while Lebanon is a tiny economy it has the highest debt-to-GDP ratio on Earth.

2. Midterm Election Forecast

The 2018 election was probably the biggest news story of the year. In the lead up to the big day, Nate Silver and his website FiveThirtyEight.com used both data to predict the outcome. Nate programed his own algorithm to forecast the probable results. It not only to took into account poll numbers, but other factors such as fundraising data, electorate enthusiasm, and historical trends. While his visualization gives a nod the familiar map of the US, he’s divided the country up into regular hexagons, making it simpler to grasp the number of districts in question as well as their general location.

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3. East Before West

While, many of our preconceived notions of science and history are very western-centric, this fascinating infographic quickly illustrates just how early Islamic thinkers were answering questions about things like the earth’s circumference or cubic equations. In some cases a thousand years earlier than their European counterparts! Plus it’s interactive, making it easy to dig a little deeper into each topic.

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4. The Thai Cave Rescue

Not all infographics are about data. Some are designed to simplify a story that for any number of reasons we’re having a hard time wrapping our heads around. The news of a kid’s soccer team trapped inside a flooding cave captivated the world this year, partly due to the mystery and danger associated with caves. To help make the story more relatable, USA TODAY published this informative article illustrating how the boys became trapped, the layout of the cave system, and just how difficult a rescue attempt was.

5. Can These 8 Surprising Ways Reverse YOUR GERD?

Sometimes the most effective infographics are about a subject that touches you personally. My mom suffers from Gastroesophageal reflux from disease. It has sent her to the emergency room twice this year. I found this easy-to-read infographic full of valuable tips and shared it with her. Stay healthy, mom!

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6. Deconstructing Space Oddity, One Dimension at a Time

This is not David Bowie’s first appearance on one of my year-end infographic lists. As the designer of this tribute explains “The core of the project is a series of 10 specially engraved records. Each 12-inch disc deconstructs the track [Bowie’s Space Oddity] in a different way: melodies, harmonies, lyrics, structure, story and other aspects of the music and lyrics are transformed into new visual systems.” The design is innovative and uses a combination of imagery, audio waveforms, and graphs analyzing the emotions expressed in the lyrics.

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7. How Car Engines Work

I love when something so ubiquitous—and so complicated—as a car’s internal combustion engine gets the infographic treatment. We take cars for granted, but most of us couldn’t explain how they work, until now. This amazing animated infographic by the design house Animagraffs uses motion, colors, and text call-outs to give us a look under the hood.

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8. Family Fun in Scottsdale

This fun choose-your-own-adventure style infographic highlights what you can do (and eat) as a visitor to Scottsdale, Arizona. The interactivity helps get you in the mood for travel and discovery, building anticipation while helping you finalize  travel plans.

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9. What If We Destroyed the Moon?

Youtuber Real Life Lore makes my best of list for the second year in a row, as he turns infographics into mini documentaries. His premise “What if we destroyed the moon?” is an entertaining exploration of the science and consequences of what could happen, using interesting facts and slick animations. Loosely based on a real idea the US Government had in the 60’ to (partially) blow up the moon with a nuclear weapon.

10. Infographic of Infographics

How do people create infographics? We’ve got an infographic to help answer the question. It covers tools, typefaces, and other elements of infographic design. Study it and maybe you’re creations will make our 2019 best of list next year!

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Bonus: Job Search 2018

Here at Meltwater, one of our own favorite infographics of the year was created using data provided by Monster.com. We were able to utilize Monster’s job search data to see just what people are looking for when they’re hunting for a new job and where they’re doing it, both in PR and social media.

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Looking for trends and data for your industry to help jumpstart your next infographic? We can help you uncover new insights and back them up. We’d love to see you on next year’s best infographics list!

AI in PR: Where We Are and Where We’re Headed

There’s no denying there’s a lot of talk about artificial intelligence (AI). A simple Google search brings up 921 million results for the term. The buzz is out there.

For public relations professionals, though, the discussion is still young. Ask one if they’re using AI in their day-to-day activities and the response is probably no.

But what’s the truth? Are PR pros already leveraging AI in what we’re doing? And if so, how?

AI in PR Is in Its Early Stages

“AI is still in the early stages for our industry; but, already, it’s helping PR pros derive insights for more intelligent campaigns, targeting and reporting,” says Meredith Eaton, Director of North America for Red Lorry Yellow Lorry

What we do know, thanks to a study by Jean Valin on behalf of the CIPR, is that right now 12% of PR skills are being assisted or impacted by AI,” says Stephen Waddington, Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum

“We’re seeing a lot of the tools that PR pros rely on incorporate AI to help better mine keywords to find trends, determine who their primary influencers are around a certain topic, or identify a clients’ buyer personas for more targeted outreach,” says Eaton.

Let’s look at some specific areas where AI is already making a difference in PR.

AI in Crisis Management

With brands in crisis making the news on what seems like a daily basis, PR pros have had to step up their game to prepare in advance so they can try to mitigate the fallout of these missteps.

AI can help by analyzing social media posts to help brands manage their reputations, monitor brand sentiment, and assist them in managing a crisis, should one come about.

“New martech tools can spot patterns in social media posts and determine the underlying sentiment,” says Ethan Schrieberg, content specialist at VitalBriefing. “With this information, and with ample warning, marketers can preemptively prepare their crisis management response, swapping pre-scheduled social posts for more appropriate alternatives.”

“Though this new technology, marketers can be prepared to take steps to influence public opinion and, in some cases, prevent the crisis in the first place,” continued Schrieberg.

AI in Media Coverage

Will AI be leveraged by media outlets to help them get more news out faster? It already is, says Eaton.

“For any PR firms pitching or distributing earning reports, they may see an uptick in coverage,” Eaton said. “Publications like the AP are already using AI to pull published earning reports.”

She cites this article as an example. The disclaimer at the bottom says, ‘This story was generated by Automated Insights (http://automatedinsights.com/ap) using data from Zacks Investment Research.’

“The AP has been doing this for a couple of years now, and even expanded to use AI for some sports coverage,” Eaton explained.

AI in Influencer Marketing and Media Outreach

Yes, incorporating AI into PR functions may be in its infancy, and while AI may not be able to do everything for public relations practitioners, it should be able to help you get to the answers faster, says Christopher Penn, Co-Founder and Chief Innovator, Trust Insights

“It should be able to tell you, for example, these are the 10 influencers your brand should be talking to,” Penn says. 

Another example is with media relations. “If you could find the reporters who are talking about a particular topic faster, you’d be able to hop on a trend story more quickly,” Penn explains.

The Future of AI in PR

So, what does the future hold for AI and PR?

“Eventually, AI may get so advanced in our industry that we’ll start receiving push notifications from virtual assistants,” Eaton says. “For instance, AI may nudge PR teams to reach out to a journalist who just covered a particular topic of interest, or remind pros that it’s time to pick up the phone to call a certain reporter who has historically been most responsive between the hours of 2:00-3:30.”

While that may seem far out, it may not take as long as you might imagine. In the meantime, what can PR pros do to get ready for the future?

“Get educated,” says Penn. “Get comfortable with the quantitative side of PR. Take a class.”

To learn how you can start using AI in your media monitoring, social listening, media outreach, influencer relationship-building, and competitive analytics, sign up for a quick tour of Meltwater’s latests tools for PR.

 

 

The 3 PR Dashboards Your Comms Strategy Needs

Confession: While media monitoring software was evolving into media intelligence over the last decade, I didn’t as a user. My media monitoring routine remained fairly static since the early aughts: Start the day scanning my inbox for the latest press hits, and occasionally log in to look up a journalist or run a coverage report. But then I joined Meltwater’s team of product experts, leading up global product communications—and had to catch up quickly. I learned I was missing out on the powerful tools, best practices, and advanced technologies now available thanks to media intelligence—starting with my underutilization of dashboards.

Customizing Your PR Dashboards

Your dashboards are automated oracles always available to help out with everything from content marketing ideas to competitor intelligence—when they’re done right and designed with intention. (Secondary confession: I initially relied on a default template* and ignored half of the widgets.) Our in-house dashboards guru, Ryan Getchell—who’s interviewed clients from Fortune 50 companies to boutique PR agencies—says as PR pros become more data-driven, they’re increasingly using dashboards to drive their campaign strategies:

“Clients that use dashboards to design data-driven campaign strategies tend to rely on three types of PR dashboards: brand, competitor, and industry trends. Track these three staples to gain a real-time understanding of your brand’s PR ecosystem. The insights you glean may reveal new trends or validate what you already know—but backed by data. Armed with these metrics, you can identify areas to influence, strategize how to move the needle, then measure the effectiveness of those efforts through a campaign dashboard to demonstrate PR ROI.”

Read on for some tips* for setting up these three PR dashboards—based on our clients’ own best practices—and how to translate data gleaned from those dashboards into insights that can drive the direction of your next campaign or PR strategy.

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1. Brand Dashboards—How to Optimize Them

If you’re already using a media intelligence platform, you likely have some form of this dashboard already. But what’s key here is keeping it focused on your brand, and making sure the metrics you track can accurately measure your brand’s performance. This will be your go-to dashboard to gain insights into how your brand is performing now and over time, creating a baseline for your reporting. You’ll want this dashboard to map directly to your KPIs, informing daily decisions, as well as your monthly, quarterly, and annual reports.

Tip #1: Filter out the noise of competitor and other market data to making sure the metrics you track speak only to your brand’s performance.

Tip #2: Make sure you’re using the right metrics to most accurately measure your brand and how its footprint evolves over time. Depending on your brand’s goals, you may want to include data like publications/social influencers, mentions by geography, or visits to your website (tracked by Google Analytics and integrated into your PR dashboard).

Tip #3: Measure news and social data separately. “Tracking news and social together gives you a holistic view, but oftentimes, the trends within these channels are vastly different,” Ryan says. “Collecting data separately—such as mentions or sentiment – makes it easier to drill in to identify patterns that you might not otherwise recognize when the channels are combined.”

Tip #4: Check daily. Use the content feeds on your brand dashboard as a way to make it part of your routine.

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2. Competitor Dashboards—Get Ahead and Stay Ahead

Now that you’re acutely aware of your brand’s performance, apply those same principles (er, metrics) to size up the competition.

Use this dashboard to exclusively benchmark competitors’ brand performance against your own. Identify where your brand and the competition are similar, and spot where you can stand out. Monitor how your competitor is being mentioned or where there’s an opening for your brand to have a louder voice in the conversation.

Tip #1: Just about everything you can know about yourself, you can know about your competitors. And since a good media intelligence tool doesn’t limit you on the number of searches you can track, use this single dashboard as your daily source to keep an eye on all of your competitors.

Tip #2: As Ryan says, “For PR managers, I would recommend checking your brand and competitor dashboards every morning to make sure you’re the first to catch any breaking trends—or every couple of days, depending on the tempo of your industry and news cycle.”

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3. Industry Dashboards—Keep the Pulse on the Latest Trends  

Your brand, and those of your competitors, aren’t operating in isolation—take a constant pulse on the greater ecosystem of your industry. Spot market forces that could affect your brand over time: What are the micro- and macro-trends or themes that could impact your brand? Who are the most influential voices leading key conversations, and what kind of keywords or messages are they using?

Not checking your industry is like flying a plane without checking the weather. Know what elements to expect so you can chart the optimal course,” Ryan says. “Using your industry dashboard in conjunction with brand and competitor dashboards, it’ll be easier to spot areas of opportunity or areas to improve—like geographic performance—to guide your PR strategy.”

Tip #1: Ryan recommends checking this dashboard at least monthly to make sure you’re not missing any key coverage or patterns.

Tip #2: Unlike your competitor dashboard where you’re keeping track of other brands, here you’ll want to keep track of key topics and thought leaders. This dashboard is a great place to find out which themes you’ll want to align yourself to when pitching for coverage and any new movers and shakers whose voices are growing louder—and more influential.

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Translating Dashboard Data to Winning Strategies

So you’ve got your PR dashboards set up and you’re armed with analytics that help you understand where your brand is at, how it stacks up against the competition, and where it’s performing in your industry. Now what?

Make the leap from widgets to a data-driven strategy in four broad steps:

  • Digest your data. Export your dashboard analytics and review with your team—either as a PDF report or a living presentation, like Meltwater’s Shareable Dashboards (which can be shared with anyone, regardless if they have an account.)
  • Pinpoint opportunities for impact.SWOT analysis is a simple method that can help with this identification,” Ryan says. “Use your data to guide the mapping.”
  • Sketch out your strategy. Create a set of tactics that focus on the areas you’ve previously identified for impact.
  • Design your KPIs. Identify which metrics will be the best indicators of whether or not your strategy is working. For instance, most media intelligence providers – including Meltwater—offer a Google Analytics widget to help you connect a news article with the web traffic driven to your company’s site. You can also measure how your messages are gaining traction, such as share of voice or tracking trending themes associated with your brand. Use these custom metrics to create a unique campaign dashboard(Tip: Check your campaign dashboard daily. Generate regular summaries to detect trends and make adjustments, as needed.)

Want to learn more about setting up PR dashboards, and how to use them for better planning and to measure ROI? We can help.

 

Government Social Media Accounts: 3 Agencies that Inspire on Social

Arguably one of the most useful aspects of social media is its ability to deliver relevant content to a significantly large group of people instantaneously. 

Whether it’s delivering crucial information during an emergency, spreading the word about a good cause, or simply updating a community with relevant news, social media is a direct line between businesses and their customers.

For government agencies, social media is an innovative way to serve constituents on the channels that they are most likely to interact with. The challenge, however, is for government agencies to adapt their social media strategies in a way that is creative and engaging, yet conforms to various regulations.

Today we’re breaking down 3 government agencies with the most inspirational social media accounts. 

3 Government Social Media Accounts that Inspire

NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration

NASA, believe it or not, is a government agency, but their social media accounts are some of the best in the world regardless of industry or vertical. 

NASA treats social media as the next frontier (pun intended) in customer engagement and digital marketing. With over 500 unique social media accounts, the NASA team is constantly delivering valuable content that millions of people interact with on a daily basis. 

But what makes their social accounts so great?

First, NASA creates round-the-clock, real-time content that you can’t find anywhere else. For example, delivering updates from space while the recent Hurricane Florence barreled towards the United States. 

Second, NASA uses a variety of content formats to keep their social feeds fresh and interesting. 

From videos, to GIFs, to links and photos, the NASA team has a bit of something for everyone. A quick peek at their Twitter timeline shows that they switch up their content on a daily basis, which helps to keep their followers coming back for more!

And finally, NASA isn’t afraid to jump in on relevant conversations. 

Their social media team is constantly on the lookout for relevant space-related conversations to contribute to in a big way. And when they find the right conversations to create content around, it can have a huge impact on their social media results.

FEMA – Federal Emergency Management Agency

In times of emergencies, social media can act as a lifeline of information to those in need. 

But sometimes the most helpful information isn’t provided during an emergency, it’s all of the education and preparations beforehand

The FEMA marketing team does an incredible job of using social media as a means to educate citizens on the importance of safety and preparedness with informative infographics.

Educating the public about how to respond in emergencies or providing tips on a variety of safety-related topics is a great way to provide valuable content that people will actually want to consume and share. 

Creating shareable content starts with a deep understanding of what your audience is looking for from you on social media and other digital channels.

When it comes to how you can apply this to your social strategy, consider common challenges your audience faces and create content that addresses those challenges.

TSA – Transportation Security Administration

You might think that a government agency like the TSA, with the fate of national security in their hands, would have a dry and boring social media presence.

Well, think again. 

The shockingly amusing and highly popular social media accounts of the TSA are filled with hilarious content that their audience can’t seem to get enough of. Items that passengers attempt to get through security, paired with all of the puns that you can imagine makes for inspirational social media content we can all learn form.

For the TSA, user-generated content is the fuel that propels their social accounts to a new realm.

Bob Burns, TSA’s public affairs specialist and social media lead, told ABC that, ““When people come to our account, they’re kind of taken aback by the tone we use — in a good way. ‘Is this really a government agency having fun and talking to me like I’m a human? Which makes them want to follow us.'” 

The more relatable your content, the more people will interact and engage and hit that follow button. 

3 Takeaways from Inspiring Government Social Media Accounts

  • NASA – Uses social media to deliver real-time content and participate in relevant conversations around the world. 
  • FEMA – Uses social media to educate people on how to prepare for an emergency with infographics. They also provide useful information in the time of need.
  • TSA – Uses social media to humanize the TSA brand through user-generated content and personal interactions.

To learn how you can streamline social media management so you have more time to focus on creating and promoting content that your audience will love, sign up for a 15-minute demo.

Keeping Up With the Top Influencer Marketing Trends

Influencer marketing is no longer new but it continues to grow and evolve. Influencers are individuals with large followings who are highly respected in their fields. They may have popular blogs, Facebook or Instagram pages, podcasts or YouTube channels. The basic principle of influencer marketing is to borrow some of the influencer’s credibility and tap into his or her audience. Yet this isn’t always as straightforward as it first appears. You need to choose the right influencer and design a campaign that works to further both of your interests.

The simplistic idea of finding someone with a huge following doesn’t work for most businesses. For one thing, working with very popular influencers is expensive. Additionally, you want to find people who can help you build credibility in your niche. A well-known pop star, model or athlete may have millions of followers but might not be the best choice if you’re in a field such as SaaS, logistics, medical supplies or many other industries. Influencer marketing is becoming more sophisticated, with businesses starting to recognize that they need a customized approach. Let’s explore some of the latest trends that will help you get the most out of your influencer campaigns.

The Benefits of Working With Micro Influencers

Micro influencers have small or moderate-sized audiences in specific niches. They aren’t as widely known as “mega” influencers but they often have enthusiastic followings in their own fields. It’s easier and more affordable to connect with this type of influencer. Another benefit of using micro influencers is that they are often seen as trustworthy. The more famous someone is, the more your influencer campaign will have the feel of a traditional TV commercial. Even people who admire a celebrity might be suspicious of his or her motives for working with you. On the other hand, micro influencers focusing on their specialty can project a more authentic image. Of course, it’s important to choose an appropriate spokesperson who has the right voice for your brand.

If you want to find micro influencers, search books, blogs, Twitter feeds and podcasts in your field. You might also check out speakers who give TED or TEDx Talks on topics relevant to your customers. Micro influencer marketing is a good approach for smaller businesses that don’t have the budget to hire more costly mega influencers.

Instagram and Facebook Stories are Ideal Platforms for Influencers

Instagram Stories have quickly emerged as one of the most popular features on social media. Facebook, which owns Instagram, has its own version of Stories. While Snapchat actually came up with Stories first, it’s struggling to keep up with its larger competitors. With Stories, brands can offer ephemeral content that’s highlighted at the top of followers’ pages. Instagram Stories are currently used by 250 million people. Facebook Stories are also taking off both on the regular Facebook platform and on Messenger.

Stories are, in many ways, the perfect vehicle for influencer marketing. Content for Stories should be timely with a sense of urgency. Influencers can help you get the word out about a new product or upcoming event. Both Instagram and Facebook now accept paid advertising on Stories. There are several types of ads you can purchase such as video ads and Carousel Story ads that let you combine three images or videos. Both organic Stories and paid ads can be part of your influencer campaigns. One brand that has made good use of Instagram Stories is Gap, which saw a 73 percent increase in click-throughs from Carousel ads compared to their previous strategy.

Focus on Analytics

At first, many businesses embraced influencer marketing without much discernment. The novelty of having recognized experts or celebrities speaking on their behalf made it easier to put analytics to the side. It’s true that influencer marketing can be good for building brand awareness, which is difficult to quantify. At the same time, as businesses invest more in influencer campaigns, it’s essential to measure ROI.

To track results, you need to set clear KPIs. You can measure the same analytics you do with any digital marketing campaign such as traffic, clicks, likes, and shares. However, you can also set up campaigns that have built-in features to make measurement simpler. For example, you could have the influencer offer a coupon code and track the number of followers who use it. Before starting an influencer campaign, set clear goals, with at least some measurable ones. It’s then possible to compare the results you get with influencers to other types of marketing such as PPC ads and organic social media posts.

Find Influencers to Work With You Long-term

Some influencer marketing campaigns are one-off affairs where you hire someone to speak or post for you on a single occasion. This is easier to arrange than ever with platforms such as Shoutcart. You can even buy “shoutouts” on freelancer sites such as Fiverr. With shoutouts, you can quickly connect with influencers without ever meeting or talking to them directly. To build trust with your audience, however, it’s better to develop long-term relationships with people who are the right match for your brand. Your readers and viewers will come to trust influencers who speak on your behalf consistently.

When you think in terms of working with someone long-term it also makes sense to have them appear on multiple platforms. While you may find that certain channels such as Instagram Stories work well for you, remember that your audience is active on many other sites as well.

Effective branding nowadays requires a multichannel presence. Rather than just having someone speak for you on a single channel, he or she might create Stories for you, make videos on YouTube, mention you in a podcast and possibly appear with you at live events. This helps you turn influencers into brand ambassadors who are seen as not merely actors but people who genuinely believe in your vision. Of course, it takes time and discernment to find influencers who can fill this kind of role.

These are some of the trends that are driving influencer marketing and making it into a more profitable strategy for businesses. No matter what your goals, it’s important to use influencer marketing in a pragmatic and results-oriented way. Make it a part of your overall marketing strategy, track your results, and focus on finding influencers who can become brand ambassadors who help you grow.